Letters: ‘Both sides believe they have the hotline to God’

Maclean’s readers write in

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Stand down

The pendulum of U.S. intervention and isolationism has swung to and fro since the Declaration of Independence (“America surrenders,” International, July 14). American loss in Afghanistan and Iraq has led to the predictable physical and psychological withdrawal of U.S. interest. It happened after Somalia in 1993. It happened after Beirut in 1983. The impact of Vietnam reverberated through the entire American body politic for decades. The colossal responsibility of leading the “Western world” at the end of the Second World War was an entirely unnatural and uncomfortable task for Americans. The standing policy during the Cold War was “containment”—notably not engagement, nor dialogue, nor normalization. American exceptionalism has led to genuine altruism and honest attempts to help people around the world. Paradoxically, however, in the cloistered existence that is America, those who refuse to accept the gift of American liberal democracy are regularly abandoned as ignorant ingrates.

Christopher J. Ruskay, Calgary

U.S. President Barack Obama realizes there is only so much the U.S. can do to influence the religious conflict in Iraq and Syria. He must surely see the parallels with the bloody Protestant-Catholic wars that tore Europe apart in the 16th and 17th centuries. When both sides in a religious war believe that they alone have the hotline to God, and that the other guys are pernicious heretics and blasphemers, then there’s not terribly much the infidel Americans can do to sway events. For Obama to think otherwise would be to base his policy on a delusion. I think the Americans are fortunate to have a cautious, reflective President like Obama in charge.

George Patrick, Oakville, Ont.

How can you criticize the United States for their inaction in Syria, Iraq and Crimea without criticizing Canada’s inaction? You are like the loud-mouthed bystander who never gets involved in the fight but bombastically urges others to be combatants. If you feel that involvement is the appropriate action, then urge Canada and other countries to stand up to the plate. Has the United States not paid enough in lost lives for their involvement in the world’s problems? Remember: we are Americans too.

Ron Prickett, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Your story claimed that one of Obama’s mistakes in the Syrian conflict was choosing not to give weapons and training to what the author describes as “moderate rebels.” Of the numerous mistakes the United States has made in the Middle East, the decision not to give arms to an al-Qaeda-affiliated group was not one of them. While there are moderate rebels in Syria, who is to ensure that the weapons do not land in the hands of extremists like the Syrian rebel who cut out the heart of an Assad soldier before a cheering crowd and posted it on YouTube?

Daniel Rankin, Thessalon, Ont.

History proves outside intervention in civil wars has never been successful, nor will it ever be.

George Hatton, Paris, Ont.

Barack Obama has the grit to get tough when necessary, as we’ve seen with his use of drones and with the capture of Osama bin Laden. Obama is interested in nuance, unlike his predecessor—who was more motivated by gut feelings and crusades, and landed America in a number of quagmires.

David Airth, Toronto

If the U.S. can’t pay its own bills, why should they justifiably be expected to step up for a military intervention, as your article implies? “More nation-building at home,” as President Obama suggests, seems entirely reasonable to me.

Douglas Coggon, Toronto

Many well-intentioned politicians demanded that arms and financial support be provided to the rebel army fighting in Syria. Yet it was known that a major element in the rebel forces was an offshoot of al-Qaeda. It is clear from past history that provision of arms to ill-defined rebel groups has resulted in the inadvertent arming of extremists. It is all too reminiscent of the situation in the 1980s in Afghanistan, when the West strongly supported (with arms and finances) the mujahedeen, which morphed into the Taliban. Supporting movements to get rid of authoritarian dictators such as Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and now Bashar al-Assad in Syria, without carefully considering who their replacements might be, can cause more problems than it solves.

Reid Robinson, Regina

Historian Robert Kagan thinks that with the largest military in the world, the U.S. should be able to enforce a liberal world order and promote democracy. But based on past experience, maybe non-intervention is a policy worth considering. The borders and the sectarianism in the Middle East are such a mishmash it may be only those in the Middle East who can figure it out. Left to themselves, it will be messy. But to get out of the mess, they might even decide to negotiate their own solution.

Charles Boyle, Prescott, Ont.

Only one alternative

I truly dread the possibility of Justin Trudeau running a country, let alone a bed and breakfast (“The battle for PM is closer than we think,” Paul Wells, July 14). If the left absolutely must back one of their own, I would hope that they would choose Thomas Mulcair. At least he makes some sort of sense when he opens his mouth. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the United States, it’s that subpar sons of former presidents do an abysmal job once in power.

Philippe Parent, Sudbury, Ont.

Hanging on to the headdress

Emma Teitel is concerned about white concertgoers donning Native headdresses (“The nostalgic headdress is here to stay,” The Columnists, July 14). So items of Native clothing are now somehow branded as racist? I’ve seen these sold in Indian craft places over the years, along with vests and deerskin jackets. By buying and wearing them, it supports Native artisans and demonstrates that the wearer likes the item. I think they’re beautiful. I, for one, am proud to be a racist because I love my beaded moccasins. I paid $70 for them and they’re not coming off.

Edward Yatscoff, Beaumont, Alta.

Golf’s not dead yet

Those crowing about “The end of golf” (Economy, July 14) are Chicken Littles reacting with knee-jerk enthusiasm by dumbing down the game. Larger holes? Foot golf? That amounts to fast-food solutions for those with drive-through mentalities. I play golf because it’s difficult, not because it’s easy. No question: there are challenges to sustaining memberships and attracting new floggers. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Offering nine- or 12-hole rounds, shorter distances, fewer bunkers (and water) and lower fees would help. But more important, offering golf to kids in schools would provide a foundation for the future, teach respect, instill discipline and get them outdoors without electronic tethers. Furthermore, golf requires patience and creativity: two things doomsday whiners could use more of.

Simon Johnston, Richmond, B.C.

The words and the bees

Thank you for dealing in a reasonable way with the issue of neonicotinoids and the death of honeybees (The Editorial, July 14). All environmental activists need to have something produced by the big chemical companies to blame for whatever eco-issue is the current threat to the world. Got a problem? Ban a pesticide and solve the problem. If the use of neonicotinoids is not the cause of honeybee decline, then the cause may be less acceptable to environmental activists. I suggest that we should consider some of the following as root causes of honeybee decline: the impact of several bee diseases; the effects of wind turbines and low-frequency noise on bee colonies; the effect of microwaves being beamed from the forest of cellphone towers across the countryside; and the need to increase the genetic variability of the local bee populations with the objective of producing hybrid resistance to diseases.

Peter D. Scorrar, Leamington, Ont.

Organic farmers are growing high-quality energy-dense food without pesticides in every corner of the Earth. Not using chemical pesticides is a viable option, as is crop rotation and the use of natural products such as hydrogen peroxide, neem oil, diatomaceous earth and others. Killing off the pollinators was not a factor until the neonics came on the scene. Years of study, as you suggest, is also not an option as these chemicals have been identified in Europe as lethal to the bees and butterflies.

Royce Hamer, Freelton, Ont.

Your editorial states, “Sorting out the interrelated complexities of bee health and the agricultural industry requires time, evidence and proper scientific technique to ensure no one gets stung.” Perhaps if time, evidence and proper scientific technique were used in the first place on the safety of these pesticides and other chemicals for our environment, the honey bees and the rest of us would not be in this mess.

Cara Hazelton, Fredericton

Still waiting for recovery

I would like to take some time to thank you for your coverage on “The great Alberta flood one year later” (Society, June 23). The Disaster Relief Program (DRP) has most certainly treated most of us unfairly—some have already walked away from their mortgages. I am so close to financial failure. I’ve held on as long I can. I pay a mortgage on a home I cannot live in and it’s been a year. With three children, financial collapse is two months away. The last DRP comment I got on the phone two weeks ago was: “Don’t worry, we will call you.” But can I do anything to help the re-evaluation process? “Don’t worry, sir, someone will call you.” I’m saddened by it all, but it’s time to move on.

Blaine Astra, High River, Alta.

Judging books by their cover

It has always amazed me how David Gilmour managed to rise to prominence in Canadian literature (“And in this corner…,” Media, July 14). His self-involved nature, not to mention sexism and now apparently racism, has always overshadowed the characters and storyline of his books. It has been ages since I have been able to bother completing any of them. My biggest amazement is to learn that he is allowed to influence the minds of students at the University of Toronto.

Alide Camilleri, Burlington, Ont.

Fix the food first

Tim Hortons has a far more serious problem than expansion and hiring temporary foreign workers (“A growing problem for Tim Hortons,” Economy, July 14). The quality of its food is declining terribly. It is no longer as healthy or nutritious as it once was. They’ve eliminated fresh egg salad and other options I used to consider acceptable for my kids. Even the Timbits have changed for the worse. We bought a small box on Canada Day to celebrate the nation’s birthday and not one was considered edible. Tim Hortons: we want to love you, but if it wasn’t for the quality of the coffee, we’d never go back. Fix yourself up.

Kathy Woodcock, Peterborough, Ont.

Today’s enemies without borders are a new breed that cannot be dealt with through traditional military means, as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have so clearly shown (“America surrenders,” International, July 14). Albert Einstein told us that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome. More than a thousand years of conflict in the Middle East is proof of this.

William Jensen, Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que.

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